The Deion Sanders era at Colorado started with a massive upset.
The Buffaloes got a late fourth-down stop with 55 seconds left to hang on for a 45-42 win over No. 17 TCU on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas. QB Shedeur Sanders — the son of the Pro Football Hall of Famer and head coach — set the Colorado single-game record for passing yards, while two-way star Travis Hunter had 11 catches as a wide receiver and an interception as a defensive back.
“I’m so thankful right now … man, I’m loving these kids,” Deion Sanders told Fox after the game. “Great joy for me to have this opportunity.”
Shedeur Sanders became the first player in Colorado history to throw for more than 500 yards, as he was 38-of-47 passing for 510 yards and four TDs. A lot of those yards came after the catch, but that doesn’t discount how well he threw the ball in his first game with the Buffaloes.
Hunter played more than 100 snaps in his first game for Colorado. He started at both receiver and defensive back and led the team with 119 yards, while Jimmy Horn Jr. had 11 catches for 117 yards.
Hunter’s interception was also massive. He made a great read on a throw from TCU’s Chandler Morris in the red zone and made a diving catch. While Colorado went three-and-out and gave the ball right back to TCU after Hunter’s pick, it was the second time Morris had thrown an interception near the goal line.
Both Hunter and Sanders came with Deion Sanders when the former NFL defensive back was hired by Colorado from Jackson State. One of the first players to commit to Colorado after it hired Sanders was four-star running back Dylan Edwards, and he had a massive game, too, with five catches for 135 yards and three touchdowns while rushing six times for 24 yards and a TD.
Edwards been committed to Notre Dame before he signed with Colorado in December. A Kansas native, he was the No. 1 player in the state and the No. 3 all-purpose back in the class of 2023, according to Rivals.
Edwards’ fourth TD turned out to be the difference. He caught a pass in the flat from Sanders on fourth down and ran down the sideline for a 46-yard TD with 4:25 to go. That TD was the eighth of the second half, as each team scored 14 points in the third and fourth quarters.
Colorado has top-end talent
There was no denying that Colorado added talent in the offseason. Sanders was hired to juice a moribund program (with a program-worst-tying 1-11 record last year), and he did just that, as dozens of new players arrived via the transfer portal and others weren’t retained.
But depth was — and might still be — a major question entering the season. Colorado’s top talent carried the day against the Horned Frogs, but it might be impossible to ask Hunter, the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2022, to play more than 100 snaps per game on offense and defense.
That, however, is a problem to worry about later. This was a Colorado team that entered Saturday as a three-touchdown underdog against a team that advanced to the national title game a season ago.
TCU has work to do
The Horned Frogs were clearly caught off-guard right away by Colorado’s new up-tempo offense under former Kent State coach Sean Lewis. And while the offensive line created massive holes for the running game against Colorado’s undersized defensive front, Morris’ two interceptions were extremely costly — as was a missed field goal by Griffin Kell.
Morris’ first interception came in the end zone as Colorado led 7-0 in the first quarter. He simply didn’t see safety Trevor Woods lurking as he tried to fire a TD pass over the middle.
Morris, who served as Max Duggan’s backup a season ago, finished the game 24-of-42 passing for 279 yards and two passing TDs to go with the two interceptions. He also rushed for a TD in the second half.
Emani Bailey rushed for 165 yards on 14 carries, thanks to an exceptional 74-yard run as TCU averaged more than 7 yards per carry. But the defense was consistently gashed by Colorado’s passing game, and the Horned Frogs committed 10 penalties.
TCU entered the season needing to replace players such as Duggan, running back Kendre Miller, wide receiver Quentin Johnston, linebacker Dee Winters and defensive end Dylan Horton. That’s why the Horned Frogs began the season outside the top 15. And it’s clear from the first game that the TCU defense still has plenty of room for improvement, while the offense doesn’t have a clear go-to receiver yet.